It’s been nearly a month since the spreading coronavirus prompted Yosemite National Park’s closure on March 20, and resident black bears are making the most of it. Last year, 4.42 million people visited Yosemite. This year, it’s a bear’s world.

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“For the most part, I think [the bears] are having a party,” said wildlife biologist Katie Patrick, according to EcoWatch. “This time of year is difficult for the animals here. There can be literally walls of cars, stop-and-go traffic, or people in the park.”

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Patrick, better known as Ranger Katie, works in Yosemite’s human-bear management program, which aims to mitigate interspecies conflict. She recently hosted a Facebook Live talk about her work as a bear biologist.

“You would think that with Yosemite being the size of Rhode Island, there would be enough elbow room for everybody, bears and humans alike,” she said in the Facebook video. “But actually, visitation tends to be concentrated in specific areas of the park that tend to be really good habitat for bears, too.” Humans prize the waterfalls, the river and the beautiful vistas of Yosemite Valley. Bears prefer the same landscape for different reasons, many of them food-related, such as the fruits and berries that grow by the river in the summer and the oak woodlands that become heavy with fall acorns.

Yosemite black bear climbing a tree

Yosemite National Park is home to about 300-500 black bears. Though there hasn't been an increase in their population since the park closure, bears have been seen more frequently than usual, likely due to the absence of visitors in Yosemite Valley.If you tuned into our livestream yesterday, wildlife biologist Ranger Katie showed us how Yosemite's bear team uses radio collars to track some of the park's bears, and we picked up the signal of a large male bear in the meadow nearby! Shortly afterward, that same bear was caught on camera by one of our volunteers, who watched from the window of the Rangers' Club as it climbed up a nearby tree. The bear sat high on a branch for a little while and then struggled to decide how to safely get back down, making this one of the more entertaining wildlife sightings we've had this spring!Check out yesterday's livestream to learn more about Yosemite's black bears and how we can all help to keep them wild: https://www.facebook.com/YosemiteNPS/videos/664884761011559/You can also find information about protecting Yosemite's iconic bears at www.KeepBearsWild.org

Posted by Yosemite National Park on Monday, April 13, 2020

“So really, it’s paradise for humans and bears,” Ranger Katie said. For now, bears and other wildlife have the park mostly to themselves.

Adult male black bears usually weigh about 250 pounds, while females weigh 150. Confusingly, black bears are usually brown and sometimes even blond. Approximately 300 to 500 bears live in Yosemite.

A worker at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel told the Los Angeles Times that in addition to seeing far more bears since the park’s closure, coyotes and bobcats are also coming closer to staff living quarters.

While it’s nice for the bears to have such a relaxed springtime with few humans and cars, Ranger Katie doesn’t want them to get too comfortable. It could be a problem when humans return post-pandemic and the two species have to divvy up paradise again.

Via EcoWatch and Los Angeles Times

Image via Hillary H.